When talent meets opportunity, NFL rookies have the chance to be impact players right away.
Especially in the modern day NFL, where teams rely on rookies to provide cheap production immediately, it doesn’t take long for some players to leave their mark.
Here are five rookies who are poised to be major contributors this season. Quarterbacks aren’t included because, by the nature of the position, they’re as important as anyone on the field, so it’s hardly a fair fight.
Do you know how strong of a prospect a running back has to be for him to be selected second overall in the draft?
That may have been a common occurrence back in the day, but teams have become too aware of the shelf life of running backs to spend that kind of draft capital now.
Yet, the New York Giants saw Barkley as enough of a can’t-miss player to make him the first running back taken that high since Reggie Bush went second in 2006.
From power to speed and everything in between, Barkley seemingly has it all and looks like a star in the making. The Giants will use him as much as they can on all three downs, whether that’s as a runner or receiver, coming out of the backfield or lined up out wide.
Barkley will also benefit from the additions of Nate Solder, Will Hernandez and Patrick Omameh to New York’s offensive line, as well as the return of Odell Beckham Jr from injury, giving the Giants’ attack plenty of punch this season.
The outside linebacker, who was taken fifth overall by Denver, is set to be a starter from day one and primed to contribute in a big way, especially if his preseason play is any indication – he sacked Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky for a safety last week.
With Miller commanding so much focus from opposing offensive lines, Chubb should have plenty of one-on-one pass rush opportunities to wreak havoc.
Unlike the other rookies on this list, Nelson’s impact will be felt when he goes unnoticed.
As ready as the left guard appears though, it doesn’t seem likely his name will be called out often for getting beat by a pass rusher or missing a key block in the run game.
How he fares as a pass blocker will especially be critical to the Colts, considering Andrew Luck is returning to the field after a major shoulder injury that kept him off the field for the entirely of last season.
While he’s the lowest-drafted rookie on the list (17 overall), James is expected to be used early and often in San Diego’s defence.
He’s yet to start a preseason game through the first two weeks, but could earn that honour this weekend when the Chargers meet New Orleans.
James should see plenty of work against opposing tight ends and have the chance to make plays near the line of scrimmage as San Diego take advantage of his versatility.
A tackling machine, the linebacker should bring a ferocity to a defence which has lacked edge for some time now.
Smith’s holdout over his contract negotiations, resulting in a late start at training camp, could mean a slow start out of the gates, but even if his first appearance is in the Bears’ preseason finale, he has all the tools to be a force whenever he gets on the field.
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